„Conversation With The Students“ by Igor Dovezenski
Even in martial arts, when you know how to just give a stern look (however inefficiently), it leaves an impression when someone in Macedonia who decided to write and self-publish a book of 250 pages on this topic.
At the beginning I was skeptical that this might be a confession in the style of „how I became a ninja“, but I quickly changed my mind – Igor might know to handle the katana, but he also knows how to transfer the experience from these martial arts.
Since the book is titled „Conversation With…“, we are going to introduce the book through a conversation. Important: none of the participants were harmed during this interview.
1. To someone who isn’t acquainted at all with traditional Japanese martial arts, this book is likely read as an autobiography of someone who is deep into them, but also as a chronicle in the social context where they developed in Macedonia. For those who are versed, it’s a reminder of their history, foundations and spiritual background. Whom were you addressing when you were writing this book, to the first, the second, or to someone else?
The book is written on an easy and clear way, so that anyone who gets in touch with it, could easily understand and get to know the traditional Japanese martial arts, known under the common name of koryu bujutsu. Where Japanese terms are used, they are explained with footnotes, and again we get the impression that the book is written for a wider audience.
Regarding the question whom I address, I have to say primarily to my students. They are those people that follow the teachings for classical Japanese martial styles for years, that were developed a few centuries ago in The Land of The Rising Sun and that have one and only purpose – to (self)improve us in any field of life.
2. What arts exactly are we talking about? Can they work as they do in the original context, regarding the cultural differences between Japan and Macedonia? At the same time, are they being modernized in Japan itself, seeing that some of them are a few centuries old?
I had that fortune (or misfortune) of being the first Macedonian (and for now the only one) that brought the classical Japanese martial arts in Macedonia. I say fortunate, because I couldn’t imagine my existence without bujutsu, and misfortunate because the whole burden and responsibility for their correct transference lies on my soul. I don’t think of myself as a teacher, only as a medium where the words and techniques of my Japanese teachers flow through, that in fact are the heirs of the martial schools that we talk about.
I am a representative of about 10 koryu (classical martial traditions), among them for the oldest documented Japanese school – Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto ryu.
The cultural differences between Macedonia and Japan are not that big to prevent somebody to dedicate themselves to the legacy of the Japanese teachings, among which their martial traditions. The functionality of the martial arts is timeless, because it’s not only about techniques of combat and forms, but a philosophy of living that is applied in various situations in everyday life. The principles that are taught through bujutsu, can help resolve any conflict. To be skillful means to win on a higher level. Before any verbal conflict arises. Physical combat remains always the last option, after all other options are depleted, but even then, the person who pursues perfection will act consciously and with a desire to save the life and the integrity of his opponent. Exactly here we can see the greatest difference between the modern and the traditional martial arts. Our purpose is not to hurt the attacker, but to face his bad intentions and make him see that the violence produces more violence, that in turn isn’t bringing any good.
Classical Japanese martial arts aren’t going to be modernized, especially because the heirs (known under the synonym soke) have the task to keep the pureness and the originality of the first founder (known under the term ryuso). But that doesn’t mean that they are not applicable at all. The principles, the laws and the ways to move the human body are the same. The way of thinking remains unchanged. As long as you learn how to avoid the attack with making a step to the side, it doesn’t matter whether you will be attacked with a fist or with a cold weapon. In bujutsu, the weapon is considered an extended arm, or as a tool to shorten the distance between you and your opponent. The laws of physics are always the same. If you learn how to defend yourself from a classical medieval weapon, you will be capable to move adeptly and to predict the attackers’ next move.
3. Can you, as a teacher, recognize in advance personality or physical traits that could make somebody a „ninja“? Does this popular term is close to what you learn in the „dojo“? What are those traits?
Maybe many of you will be disappointed when they hear that the term ninja is pretty new and made popular by the Japanese pop-subculture that has its rise in the `30s in the last century. Afterwards, in the `80s the same was transfered to the west and vulgarized by Hollywood, afterwards by the Hong Kong film industry where the ninjas are represented as assassins or sorcerers that turn into various animals, or disappear with a clap of the hands. That damage will always remain visible, and the term „ninja“ is going to be used in a degrading manor.
In history, the ninja were famous by several names, but mostly they were called „shinobi“. Regarding their role in the social life in Japan, they belong to the lowest warrior class (bushi) whose purpose was gathering information about their enemy, but also to perform different diversions, and sabotages in the lines of the enemy army. Compared to a modern profession, I could say that they are something in between military intelligence and members of the small teams of scouts of the professional army units.
At the end, to answer the part about recognizing the personality and physical traits of the potential „candidates“ for a ninja. The biggest part of the people that enroll in my dojo, don’t have the idea of accomplishing some super-results that will draw them nearer to the capabilities of the Japanese „ninja“. In fact, many come for recreation, so they can relax from the everyday responsibilities, as well as to improve their health through improving their physical and psychological stamina. Although, with time, many of them show greater interest for the history and the tradition of the Japanese martial arts, and with that starts the Path that cannot be left easily. After many years of running a dojo, I can distinguish the serious practitioners with great certainty, that see differently to what I teach and that one day will become masters to the arts they practice.
4. What movie would you recommend that has a good combination of action, but also a correct depiction of the Japanese martial arts (without showing off and Hollywood tricks)?
Only in the movies of Akira Kurosawa and similar that I would call „Japanese classics“, where the spirit of the time when the Japanese warriors existed, known as samurai and ninjas, can be captured. Whatever comes from Hollywood is a perversion of the history of the Far East, with purpose to earn bigger revenues in the cinemas’ box offices through luring a greater audience.
5. Recently you’ve been to Japan for the first time. What kind of impressions did you bring back?
If I start talking about that, I will have to „knit sheets“ that the readers of „BookBox“ would hardly have the time and the desire to read to the end. I can only confirm something that I’ve heard from my mentors, which is: anyone that trains hard and with a dedication can become a good and skillful warrior. But if someone wants to really understand the tradition and the culture of Japan, it is necessary to travel there and to train in the dojos of the Japanese teachers at least for a few weeks.
You can contact Igor by this mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), and the book can be found here (http://www.kupikniga.mk/BookDetails.aspx?Pr=39713).